How small local bookstores survive in the age of Amazon - InfoNews

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How small local bookstores survive in the age of Amazon

Owner Michael Neill, of Mosaic Books, examines a book. He was recently recognized for his contribution to the publishing industry.
January 15, 2020 - 5:30 AM

The owner of Kelowna’s Mosaic Books has probably read six fiction novels in his life. In fact, he had no interest in reading until he started reading stories to his children.

Michael Neill’s interest in business and mathematics is what carried him towards books and the occasional non-fiction. His mother owned a bookstore, Black Bond Books in the Lower Mainland, a business his sister still operates.

Recently, Neill, 62, was honoured with the Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award for his development of Book Manager, an organizational software that allows bookstore owners to handle every avenue of their business and compare popular books and sales with one another. Presented by the Association of Book Publishers of B.C., the award is granted to an individual who has made an impact to the publishing industry.

“It means a lot in that they’ve recognized my efforts over the years to keep the publishers and independent booksellers connected, and informed and working together,” Neill said. “I saw an opportunity for this new thing to be useful for our stores… it helped a lot.”

When his family moved to Kelowna in 1995 and bought Mosaic Books, he had an idea about sharing information between publishers and booksellers, which he thinks helped save some of the independent bookstores as the digital age took over.

Mosaic Books has survived the introduction of the internet and e-books and big box outlets like Indigo, but the ongoing concern for many store owners remains Amazon.

“They’ve captured so much of the online market, has made it so easy,” he said, but Neill is optimistic about small stores maintaining a niche market of readers.

Younger generations still like the experience of a brick-and-mortar store, he said, but the future of what bookstores will look like lies with the consumer.

“If the consumer decides they like bookstores like Mosaic, then they have to say ‘I’m going to buy less books from Amazon,’” Neill said.

Other Okanagan bookstore owners and employees agree that people still appreciate a book in their hands.

“For me personally, I’m a huge reader. There’s a nostalgia to a book, there’s something tactile that people can hang on to. People who read physical books will continue to read physical books,” said Bookland manager Bethany Sankenko, in Vernon. “Mobile devices are grand when you’re travelling, but primarily people like the experience of seeing a book, holding a book, touching a book on the shelf,” said Jeff Carroll, employee at The Book Shop in Penticton. He sees a variety of age groups in the store, from students looking for textbooks, to seniors.

Jason Wiggins, owner of The Book Place in Kamloops, thinks there’s a more scientific formula as to why people keep reading books. There’s evidence that shows readers retain more information when reading a paper copy compared to on a screen. Wiggins said that people might gravitate towards hard copies because of this.

Or it could be the format is something they grew up with, and most people are still familiar with the printed versions, he said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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